New Year's Message from Henry Schulson, Executive Director

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New Year's Message from Henry Schulson, Executive Director

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What. A. Year.

This time last year, the CDM team was planning for a monumental 2020. Father Time, also known as me, Executive Director Henry Schulson, was prepping for his 20th staircase decent for our annual New Year’s at Noon event. We were preparing to launch the public phase of our first ever capital campaign, Ignite Discovery: Creating the New CDM on January 30, 2020 with over 50 percent of our $10M goal met. The Museum would celebrate its 25th birthday in May of 2020, and we were planning events and activities to celebrate all year long. We were in the strongest financial position since our opening in 1995. We were three months away from AmuseUm, our annual fundraising event which was one of the last events to take place in Chattanooga before everything shut down.  

Closing and Re-Opening

On March 14, we made the voluntary decision to close our doors with the safety of our community and staff at the forefront of our minds. We remained closed for 14 weeks while providing at-home experiences for children and families. CDM re-opened June 22 and has been providing safe, playful, learning-rich experiences giving families a much needed reprieve from the stressors that have come with 2020.

CDM’s ability to be welcoming visitors is not lost on us. Only about 50 percent of children’s museums across the country are currently open.  A few have closed permanently. Others have opened then had to close again based on government orders. All are facing financial stress.  

While 2020 undoubtedly had significant challenges, it came with wonderful opportunities to pivot our focus and do what we do best – create. Since March, CDM:  

  • Delivered 2,000 Discovery Kits to Hamilton County School elementary students enrolled in the lunch program. Each kit includes everything needed to complete a hands-on, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) activity.  
  • Produced 40 episodes of Creativity TV. This video series that gave families access to the Museum from home and has been viewed over 35,000 times.
  • Launched Destination Discovery @ CDM, a daily school support program for students Kindergarten through 5th grade that are homeschooled, enrolled in virtual school or out of school due to COVID-related closures.  
  • Developed View It and Do It to give educators and their students access to our science theater experiences and hands-on science kits since almost all field trips are temporarily suspended.  
  • Welcomed over 30,000 visitors back in our building and continued to remain as accessible as possible to the community through our Museum for All program, Free Family Nights, and free Sensory Nights and after school programs for children with a diagnosis.  
Looking Ahead

Creative Discovery Museum continues to look towards a bright future. Throughout the year we have been working with architects and exhibit designers to create the new CDM. We will begin comprehensive renovations to the Museum funded by the Ignite Discovery capital campaign in the summer of 2021. Our outreach efforts will continue with the opportunity to reach even more students through virtual experiences. And hopefully by the summer, we can welcome all visitors back without any restrictions.  

Now more than ever, I’m honored to work with a staff and board that is fiercely dedicated to the success of the Museum. And I’m grateful that CDM is located in a community that continues to be generous with financial support during one of the more challenging chapters of our lifetime.  

Here’s to a new year full of playful moments.